Tag Archives: cautionary tale

The Birthday Invitation / Wishker

The Birthday Invitation
Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
That the author of this book is a speech therapist is evident in the abundance of verbs in her enormously engaging story.
We meet Ellen on the eve of her birthday excitedly writing and posting off invitations to her party. On her way though, she drops one: it’s picked up by a wizard while out collecting herbs, and into a bottle he pops it.

Some while later though, it finds its way into the hands of a pirate captain out at sea where it is then seized by his parrot which flies off and drops it into the hands of a princess and thereafter, it passes to several other unsuspecting characters before ending up in the pocket of its originator.
The day of the party dawns and there’s considerable hustle and bustle as Emma makes the final preparations for her birthday party and then comes a loud knock on her door …
Has there been a mistake or could it be that the wizard had worked some rather extraordinary magic? Certainly not the former, and maybe a sprinkling of sorcery went into the making of that wonderful celebratory cake …

There certainly is a kind of magic fizzle to Laura Hughes’ captivating illustrations: every scene sparkles with vivacity and her attention to detail further adds to the enjoyment of her spreads.
Just right for pre-birthday sharing with those around the age of the birthday girl herein, or for a foundation stage story session at any time.

Wishker
Heather Pindar and Sarah Jennings
Maverick Arts Publishing
Be careful what you wish for is the moral of Heather Pindar’s deliciously crazy cautionary tale.
Meet Mirabel who it seems never gets what she asks for be it a sleepover with her friends or a pet monkey; “It’s not fair! Everyone always says NO” she complains as she sits outside in her garden. Her comments are heard by a cat that introduces itself as Wishker, claims to posses magical powers and offers her three wishing whiskers.
Mirabel uses her first wish on ice-cream for every meal and her second for having her friends to stay – forever. The third wish involves a phone call to the circus and results in the arrival of clowns, fire-eaters, acrobats and a whole host of animals. The result? Total pandemonium in one small house: things are well nigh impossible.

Another wish is uttered and ‘Whoosh’. Normality reigns once more. But that’s not quite the end of the tale – or the whiskery wishing: Mirabel has a brother and there just happens to be a whisker going begging …
Sarah Jennings bright, action-packed scenes are full of amusing details and endearing characters human and animal.

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Danny McGee Drinks the Sea

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Danny McGee Drinks the Sea
Andy Stanton and Neal Layton
Hodder Children’s Books
Authors often talk about getting inside a character’s head but I’ve never heard of one getting inside a character’s stomach before. Andy Stanton did just that though: he wrote, so he’d have us believe, this entire book from within one, Danny McGee; and it certainly didn’t have an adverse effect on his wicked sense of humour.
How did he get therein, you might well be wondering so let’s start at the beginning and meet young Danny and his sister Frannie McGee as they head towards the beach in their little red car.

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Once there, Danny, for some reason known only to himself, announces that he can drink the sea – all of it – and within ten minutes, he has. This however is not enough for the lad who turns his attention to a tree …

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followed by pretty much everything you can think of and some you can’t.
Before long, young Danny has gleefully consumed virtually the whole of humankind (hence the author),

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not to mention the whole Roman alphabet and goodness knows how much of our number system.
And he just keeps going until there’s nothing left but himself, or so he thinks …
The denouement to Stanton’s wonderfully anarchic rhyming tale is something of a jaw dropper and one young listeners will relish.
The combination of Stanton’s supreme verbal silliness and Neal Layton’s brilliantly bizarre visuals,

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combining comic cartoon and photo-collage, is an unforgettable nonsense tale that will be requested over and over.

There’s No Such Thing As a Snappenpoop

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There’s No Such Thing as a Snappenpoop
Jeanne Willis and Matt Saunders
Little Tiger Press
I already know bits of this snappingly stupendous story off by heart after a week of reading and re-reading it with various groups and individuals. It features two brothers, Little Brother and Big Brother, and there’s a Snappenpoop involved too – despite the contrary assertion of the title. Much of the telling is through dialogue; it’s between the two siblings and essentially, Little Brother asks Big Bro. if he can play, with a promise to do anything Big Bro. asks in return; and Big Bro. issuing ridiculously impossible demands such as “Go and fetch me a unicorn.

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Then having a good laugh behind his brother’s back as Little Bro. sets off to procure whatever; and then being forced to eat his words so to speak, as his small sibling returns with each item requested. Of course the inevitable must be delayed for a long as possible and so after every successful search, Big Brother dreams up one or another reason for the unsatisfactoryiness of, in turn, the unicorn (it’s the wrong kind – too small); the lion with wings (the colour’s wrong).
Long-suffering Little Brother is prepared to travel far and wide, even through time and space …

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to achieve the desired end, as when he’s asked to fetch a dinosaur. How’s this for spot on comic timing and dialogue: “Go and fetch me a triceratops instead, “ said Big Brother. “Any particular size or colour?” asked Little Brother. “Big and brown,” said Big Brother. “OK, that narrows it down,” said Little Brother and off he runs, returning some time later with guess what – a big, brown triceratops.
Now, Big Brother is in a fix but he still wants to make playing together conditional: “You must fetch me a Massive Spiny Snappenpoop,” he insists. “Imagine the scariest monster times a million!
Whether he does or whether he doesn’t, is mine to know and yours to wonder, as our hero sets off into the menacing darkness …

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Yes, there’s a dark twist in this tale; but I’ll say no more on that subject.
Let’s finish by saying that Little Brother does get to play, though who with and who not with, is also mine to know and yours to discover – once you’ve got your hands on a copy of this magical book.
Jeanne Willis is a storyteller extraordinaire and debuting as a picture book artist, Matt Saunders’ visuals are the ideal complement –wonderfully detailed, full of atmosphere …

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and picking up on the subtle humour of the verbal telling superbly well.

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The Greedy Goat

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The Greedy Goat
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
What a tremendous treat of an extended joke of a book this is. I thought at first that the particular Goat in question must have an extraordinarily strong constitution as she gobbles up dog’s food for her breakfast, washed down with slurps of the cat’s milk; this is followed by a veritable 3-course lunch: pig’s potato peelings for starters, the farmer’s wife’s plant as entrée and his daughter’s shoe for dessert. And her supper – can you believe it- is this …

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It should come as no surprise then that after a whole day’s experimental gormandising our heroine starts to feel its effects.

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Moreover, the farmer’s family too have noticed the absence of their things and the guzzler seems to have absented herself too. Come Sunday, she looks thus:

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It takes a whole week for our experimental eater to get back to her usual self: but that still leaves one small girl in need of new footwear and the farmer short of his boxers. They never do turn up – well maybe they do but let’s not go there! And the goat? Is she now a reformed vegetarian, never to stray from her herbivorous diet again? Umm … who wants to ruin your dessert? The proof of the pudding is in the reading …
Petr Horáček has served up a truly flavoursome cautionary tale with spicy ingredients: a piquant main player, supported by a copacetic cast and – as ever – delectable mixed media illustrations that will be relished by children (who may well try their hand at some of his techniques) and the adults who serve up this treat to them.

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Monster in the Hood

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Monster in the Hood
Steve Antony
Oxford University Press
When a notice appears in town warning of THE MONSTER IN THE HOOD, Sammy Squirrel, Henri Hedgehog and Marvin Mouse all want to see the creature for themselves. Sammy dares it to show itself: “Come out, come out, wherever you are! You won’t scare us!” he shouts. The only response is a squeak but that’s from a pack of rats, one of which warns of the large orange-eyed monster. “The monster in the hood … grumbly and rumbly and will eat you for dinner.” Does this scare the pants off the fearless trio? Most certainly not; it’s Henri’s turn to address the monster this time and as he does so,

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there comes a screech, which turns out to be a cloud of bats. They add ‘huge shaggy hands’ to the monster’s attributes but do nothing to ruffle the cool headedness of the three monster seekers.

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Marvin Mouse tries his luck at calling for the creature and no sooner has he completed his challenge than a ‘clutter of cats’ comes by with words about a ‘big scary mouth’ – to no avail of course. The intrepid trio try calling in unison and out of the silence steps …

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Yes, it definitely matches the description given by the rat, bat and cat but none of them has given the vital piece of information that makes all the difference; and that related to what it didn’t have – a friend. Seemingly the other animals were wrong about what the monster really wanted after all – or, were they?
I love the night-time urban setting and the wacky characters of this twisted cautionary tale and Steve Antony’s choice of colour palette is, as ever, spot on. Every time I see a new book from this guy, I think ‘that’s my favourite’ but then along comes another and another and …

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Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

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Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool is assuredly a head-turner but not a particularly pleasant character – far from it in fact. She feels duty bound to issue fault- correcting instructions to those she calls her friends, thus …

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and even resorts on occasion to actual ‘enhancement’ procedures …

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It isn’t only fellow pupils who come in for her improvement instructions though: ‘No one was safe from Lucinda’s advice./ “Grandpa!” she said. “Your moustache isn’t nice./ Sit down and don’t fidget, I’ll give it a trim./ Grandma, you’re next when I’ve finished with him.” Her teacher too gets the treatment …

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All is perfectly peachy for Miss LBMMcC until she happens upon a Monster in the woods one day – a hideous beast if ever there was one. Do you think the young miss stood terrified before this creature?

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No way! Out come the beautifying instruments (she went nowhere without those of course)

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and very soon the monster’s hair has been washed, trimmed and blown dry and he’s had a thorough make over to boot. Let the beautiful friendship now commence … errrm, not quite. Seems that makeover was only skin deep …
Willis and Ross have together concocted a cracking cautionary tale of the truly hilarious kind. Jeanne Willis’ rhyming narrative is a gift to the reader aloud (though I suggest you have a dress rehearsal first) and I guarantee you’ll have your audience in fits, not only over the words: every single one of Ross’s illustrations is an absolute beaut.
FAB-U-LOUS!

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